The first 25 years of my life, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker. In fact, I didn’t possess any desire to take even one tiny sip of that steamy popular brew. Now, my mother was quite the coffee connoisseur, making herself a cup every morning upon rising and usually finishing up a last drop of one right before bed. On a few occasions she would ask me to try some, but I just couldn’t develop a taste for her beloved roasted-bean beverage. I found it bitter. Too strong. Way too hot. Its taste was in fact quite boring to me. That is until one day I met a friend at a local coffee house. It was there I discovered something ground-breaking about coffee.
It doesn’t have to be consumed black.
My mother always drank coffee black—just the way God made it. Never once did I see her put anything in her mug. However, the barista at the fancy coffee shop asked me a question when she poured me some French roast coffee in the clear pedestal mug that day. “Room for cream, ma’am?”
“Huh?”, I responded. “Would you like me to leave room for you to add some cream to your coffee?” That simply question posed to this coffeehouse novice was the beginning of a decades-long love affair. You see, not only did I splash a little cream in my coffee that day, but I also sprinkled on about a half teaspoon of sugar, gave the whole concoction a stir, and then took a hesitant sip. It was then that I fell head-over-heels in love with the taste of coffee. Well, as long as I leave a little room for cream.
To me, motherhood is a little like that black coffee my own mama tried to get me to like all those years. The heat and sometimes bitterly sorrowful times of motherhood often strong-arm me, wrestling with my emotions. Or, the monotony of motherhood makes me view my life as boring and redundant; always performing the same tasks over and over and over again. Wipe this. Clean that. Remind a child of one thing. And his sibling of another. Peel the potatoes. Scrub the pan. Stain-stick the sports uniforms. Get the groceries. Put them all away. And then?
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
However, having a few decades of parenting now under my belt, I have learned a very important lesson. We as mamas need to save a little room for cream. To not pack our lives so tightly that we don’t leave room for a little sweetness to cut the bitter and a little sprinkle of sugar to sweeten things up a bit.
I’m not talking about hours upon hours of time spent pursuing a hobby, shopping endlessly, or locking ourselves away in a day spa for some “me time”—although a little me time is fabulous when you can grab it. I mean “He time”—time to reconnect with God. To slowly read his word. Or walk in nature or sit out in the sunshine, (sipping an iced mocha perhaps?) and pour our hearts out to him. Time to take our smallest concerns, along with our deepest prayers for our children, to Jesus.
Connecting with our creator is crucial. But busy moms often put such times on the back burner. Not because we don’t desire to spend time with God, but because we are so busy meeting the needs of our family, which often leads to putting ourselves last. In fact, we might even feel selfish having any time at all to ourselves at all. So what is a maxed-out mom to do?
Here are a few things that have helped me over the years to leave a little space for sweet time with God each week, even when I was in the middle of raising kiddos.
1. Stop looking for an entire hour a day. Instead seek out little pockets of time.
Rather than taking the super spiritual approach that says you must carve out an entire hour each morning to read your Bible and pray, look for little pockets of time. Do you wait in the carpool line for your kids to come out of the school building at the end of the day? Do you find yourself in medical waiting rooms often? Do you have a 15-minute commute to work or several nursing sessions with a newborn baby as a stay-at-home mom? Learn to maximize these times. Keep a small Bible (or even just a New Testament) in your purse, along with a journal and a pen. When ever you find a small pocket of time, pull out your Bible and read. Or spend a few minutes praying. Or jotting down some thoughts about what scriptures you have been reading lately. Or craft a worshipful playlist of songs to listen to while on your commute or while you nurse. These little snippets of time add up over the course of the day. Look for them.
2. Make a trade.
Think you don’t have time to deepen your walk with the Lord? Prayerfully consider your typical weekly schedule. Are there any things that you could swap out, replacing them with some alone time with God in nature at a park or even at a coffee house nearby where the clanking of dishes and whirring of the espresso machines will serve as a sort of white noise? Do you have a favorite television show you never miss? Try just once not watching it and instead using the time to get alone with God. I’ll bet you will be glad you did. And hey, you can always record the show to watch later while you’re folding laundry or something, right? Trade an optional activity out for the crucial practice of time spent with Jesus.
3. Find a friend who also needs some alone time with Jesus.
An idea that works well is to find another busy mom who could also a little break from parenting to reconnect with God. Set up a schedule where one afternoon a week you will watch her children so she can have some time alone. Then, the next week swap and she will have all the children while you have some solo time. It works best if whoever is getting a break that day does not go back to their own house. You know you will be tempted to straighten and clean and tackle projects. In fact, what works best is for you to trade houses. You will be better able to relax, read your Bible, and pray if you are at your friend’s house. Her dust bunnies won’t be calling your name. Then, she can watch the children at your home. The next week, swap.
4. Sneak it in.
If you are a mom with young children, find a way to sneak in a little reading, prayer time, and journaling. I used to take my children to a chain restaurant that had an indoor play land. They would all split a large order of chicken nuggets and go jump in the ball pit while I read my Bible. They occasionally came back to dunk another nugget in the honey mustard or take a sip of water, while I got a good chunk of time to devote to reading. I also purchased a waterproof Bible and would sit cross legged on the bathroom floor while they splashed around in the tub. Before I bought it, I was a no-nonsense mom, quickly getting them in and out of the tub when they would have rather lingered and played. This setup worked for both of us. They could splash in the bubbles longer while I soaked in the word of God.
5. Shift your perspective.
Stop looking at the spiritual life of others and thinking you need to forge yours in the same way. Perhaps you have a friend whose children are all grown who can attend an in-depth Bible study with an hour of homework a day or take leisurely prayer walks. You might feel discouraged if you compare your life with hers. Learn to see even small steps as spiritual growth. Can you make some memory cards with Bible verses on them and then practice them in the soccer stands when you are waiting for the game to begin? Can you grab your Bible while you are waiting for the coffee to brew in the morning and simply read through one Psalm to get a perspective for the day? Even little steps strengthen your walk with God. Quit watching your friend who has time to run a marathon when right now your life only affords you time for a few walks around the block each day.
6. Let it go.
Faced with the choice of washing windows or ignoring them to spend some time praying about crucial issue with one of your children? Let the windows stay dirty another day longer. It won’t hurt a thing. While we don’t want to neglect our homes, sometimes we need to delay tasks so as not to neglect our relationship with God. The housework will still be there waiting for you when you’re done. I pinky promise.
7. Enlist the help of your family.
Don’t expect your family to read your mind. Sit down with them, beginning with yours husband if you have one, and explain to them how important it is for you to have time alone with God. Perhaps the older children can help with some chores around the house in order to make this happen. Or dad could plan a little getaway with the kids to give you a few hours alone. A byproduct of this may be that your own children will see the importance of carving out time to meet with Jesus. They will never know your desire to have this time unless you tell them. So share your heart with them about this crucial issue.
Make plans now to implement one of the suggestions above this week. Leave a little room for cream in your own life: space to savor the sweet relationship with God that makes us more like Jesus.
Karen Ehman, KarenEhman.com
Want to carve out a little slice of your day to spend time with Jesus? Would you like to do so with thousands of other moms who will be forging a community for the summer and interacting on a Facebook page as they do? If so, grab a copy of the devotional Karen wrote with Ruth Schwenk entitled Pressing Pause: 100 Quiet Moments for Moms to Meet with Jesus and watch for info here next month about the community 100 Days of Pressing Pause.